Jason Snell on the MacOS 12 ‘Monterey’ Public Beta

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

The Mac is also getting a boost with older iOS features finally being brought to the other side, most notably Shortcuts, the iOS automation tool that is the first sign of a renaissance of user automation on macOS.

The good news is, for all the recent fears among Mac users that Apple might be attempting to collapse Mac, iPhone, and iPad into a single amorphous product, macOS Monterey still feels unreservedly like a Mac. Apple wants its platforms to share features, but it also recognizes that each serves a different (albeit overlapping) audience.

Worth pointing out again that Shortcuts for Mac is not a Catalyst app. In fact, there are no new Catalyst apps from Apple in MacOS 12. [Correction 11 August 2021: I was wrong, there is one new Catalyst app in MacOS 12: Apple Books.] It’s seemed clear to me all along that Catalyst was a transitional framework and that SwiftUI is the future. MacOS 12 Monterey seems to be bearing that out. (Snell has a screenshot of the new Shortcuts for Mac with an interesting-looking shortcut based on a Perl script….)

The elephant in the room with MacOS 12 (and iOS, but to a lesser extent): the new Safari tabs interface:

To make matters even worse, the background color of the entire top of the Safari window is now matched to the color of the website you’re viewing. It’s a cute trick, but while I understand the desire to make Safari feel more like it’s a part of the content it’s displaying, it’s a readability disaster. Contrast with the text on tabs is frequently poor, and since the color shifts depending on which tab is active, it feels like my brain is constantly recalibrating how to read that particular text contrast. On top of that, there’s also the cognitive dissonance of seeing tabs for sites with a strong color identity displayed in a different color because they’re not the currently active tab. And you can’t see the title of the page you’re currently viewing, because the URL displays instead unless you hover the pointer over it.

Because the address bar is embedded in individual tabs now, it also means that when I type Command-L or Command-T, I have to hunt down the place where that URL is being entered — the URL box jumps around based on the location of the particular tab I’m currently using.

A lot of user interface elements have also been hidden away to provide more space for tabs. Tasks that were once a click away sometimes need to be searched for in a sub-menu.

I think the new Safari interface is a noble experiment — intriguing ideas that were worth trying out. But I don’t know anyone who thinks, in practice, that they’re not a huge regression in usability. I’d love it if Apple just went back to the previous Safari interface for tabs and browser chrome. It’s crazy to me that even the Share button is now an extra click or tap away. If Apple ships this design for the Mac it’s going to push a lot of current Safari users to Chrome or other Chromium-based browsers.

Thursday, 1 July 2021